Skip to content

What to do When The Issue is Style

  • Try to bring the author’s voice out. If you read a paper aloud you can sometimes work phrase by phrase or word by word. For example, you can say, “This doesn’t sound like you – could you re-phrase it to make it stronger?” You can then help the student use her own word choice and nuance to give the paper more voice and character.
  • It’s difficult to work with jargony papers other than sentence-by-sentence. We want the student to make the shift to thinking of the paper as a vehicle of communication and need to bring them to that realization. Sometimes, it can help to talk about the issue in those (general) terms, focusing on how the lack of clarity in the paper occludes or hides the smartness of the student’s ideas. You can then try to get him to think about his reader in more concrete terms. Another tactic is to read sentences aloud in a somewhat exaggerated voice to emphasize the problems. (Probably only if you’ve developed a really good rapport with the student already.)
  • Help the student develop their ideas into an anecdote. This is their learning process as much as it is their piece of writing. By writing anecdotally, they might enjoy it more and might be more inclined to develop good style. Papers are less frustrating when a student can enjoy them.